COINS. The invention of coined money in ancient times did not antedate the Lydian empire, which came to an end by 546 b.c. Prior to that time the ancient Near E carried on commercial transactions either by barter or by bullion weighed out in the scales. In the earlier period the chief medium of exchange was livestock, such as cattle, sheep or goats (esp. in nomadic communities), or else the products of agriculture, such as grain, olives and figs, or the liquid manufactures in the form of wine or olive oil. Taxes were ordinarily paid in oil or wine, judging from the Samaritan ostraca from the reign of (793-753 b.c.) which list the number of jars paid by each taxpayer opposite his name. Even vassal kings like Mesha of Moab paid their tribute to the Israelite government in the form of sheep’s wool (at the yearly rate of 100,000 lambs and 100,000 rams—
On the other hand, it should be noted that silver bullion often was used in making purchases even as early as the beginning of the 2nd millennium, when Abraham bought the cave and field of Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite for 400 shekels of silver (
The bullion used in such transactions may have been forged into standard shapes, for Egyp. bas-reliefs show bundles or piles of silver rings which were capable of being tied together for convenience’ sake, as the sons of Jacob did when purchasing grain in Egypt (
The normal subdivisions of the shekel mentioned are: the gerah (one twentieth), the beka (a half shekel), and the pīm (prob. two-thirds of a shekel; cf.
It was apparently in Greece that the first silver coinage made its appearance, even before it was minted in Lydia. The earliest silver staters from Aegina, an island near the coast of Argolis on the NE shoulder of the Peloponnesus, date from around 670 b.c., and show a sea tortoise on the obverse, with a mill incuse on the reverse. Aegina was a major mercantile center during the 7th and 6th cent., and its coinage was widely used. With the rising naval power of Athens at the beginning of the 5th cent. the Athenian tetradrachma took the field as the dominant silver coin in international trade in the eastern Mediterranean. This featured the head of the patron goddess, Athena, facing right, and on the reverse her sacred bird, the owl, with an olive spray behind it, and the inscr. ATHE (for Athēnaiōn, “of the Athenians”) to the right of it. Unlike the coinages of other cities, this Attic tetradrachma never reduced its weight from 270 grains, nor did it debase the silver from its original fineness. For this reason, as well as for the extensive political power of Athens (esp. under the leadership of Pericles), this coin enjoyed the widest circulation of any Gr. coin prior to the Alexandrian conquest. Hoards, including these tetradrachmas, have been unearthed all over the Mediterranean area, even in the Black Sea Hellenic settlements and the coastal districts of the Near E, including Pal. itself. In 230 b.c., after 300 years of use, this older type was replaced by a new style with a broader flan, containing the head of Athena Parthenos (the famous masterpiece of Phidias in the Parthenon) with the three-crested helmet. On the other side the owl is standing upon an overturned amphora or lekythos. The example illustrated has this inscr.: ATHĒ(naiōn) MĒTRO(poleōs) EPIGENE(s) SŌSANDROS (“Of the metropolis of the Athenians, Epigenes [and] Sosander”). To the lower left of the owl is a small eagle on a thunderbolt. The two magistrates named held office in 163, according to Barclay Head (but 158, according to more recent authorities).
Another widely used currency was that of the city of Corinth, whose colonies and mercantile connections spread from western Greece over Sicily and southern Italy. It minted a beautiful stater with a lovely head of Athena wearing an owl-type helmet, and on the reverse the winged horse, Pegasus, with the letter koppa (for Qorinthou “Corinth”) below its chest. Many of the colonies founded by Corinthian settlers used the same types on their staters, except that they substituted the initial letter of their own city name (e.g. lambda for Leucas, alpha for Anactorium, etc.). The smaller denominations of Corinth retained the Pegasus on the reverse, but varied the obverse type. Thus, the drachma bore the head of Aphrodite whose temple on the Acrocorinthos overlooking the city was said to maintain a thousand temple prostitutes for the convenience of her worshipers—a tradition of sexual impurity which continued until Paul’s generation in the 1st cent a.d.
The currency needs of Pal. itself were largely supplied by the Pers. imperial coinage described above, but also by the mintages of Tyre and Sidon in nearby Phoenicia. From the late 5th cent. onward the shekels of Sidon carried a sail ship or galley riding above the waves, and on the reverse a two-horse chariot occupied by the standing figure of the king and one or two attendants. The coinage from Tyre at this same period portrayed a hippocamp (or winged sea horse) ridden by a long-bearded Baal Melqart with waves indicated below. On the reverse a dignified owl stands in front of the traditional Egyp. symbols of kingly authority: the flail and the shepherd’s crook. In addition to these Phoen. currencies there was at least one mint in the province of Judah, perhaps located at Gaza, where a type of shekel was produced that bore a bearded Sem. head on the obverse, but on the reverse a crude imitation of the Athenian owl and the inscr. Y-H-D (or Yehūd) which meant “Judah.” This may have been a limited issue, since so few specimens have been unearthed in the excavations.
The groundwork was laid for the intrusion of Hellenic influence in the Near E by the brilliant reign of King Philip of Macedon (359-336 b.c.). Under his leadership the Macedonians developed an invincible army, centered in its heavy-armed phalanx and its disciplined cavalry, and skilled in tactics and maneuver on the battlefield. By clever political policies Philip was able to bring all of Greece (except Sparta) under his control, and so he was able to draw on their manpower and skills as he planned a great invasion of Asia. His gold staters found wide currency throughout the Gr. world and even up to the Celtic tribes of the Danube valley. They bore a beautiful head of Apollo on the obverse, and a two-horse chariot with a charioteer racing off to the right; above was the inscr.: PHILIPPOU (“of Philip”). His silver tetradrachmas also were widely circulated; these portray the head of Zeus on the obverse (possibly copied from the famous statue by Phidias in Olympia) and a prancing horse with a bareback rider or jockey on the reverse. In the illustrated example the PHILIPPOU is on the upper border, and a mint mark (lambda) below the horse’s chest. This series was apparently issued in celebration of Philip’s prizewinning horse at the Olympian games.
After Philip’s career was suddenly cut off by assassination, his young son, b.c.), Issus in N Syria (333), and Gaugamela or Arbela in Assyria (331), he completely crushed the military might of King Darius III and pushed all the way E to Afghanistan and the Indus River valley region of India. Thus in seven years he acquired the largest empire of ancient times, stretching all the way from Yugoslavia to Pakistan, and from Romania in the N to Sudan in the S. He was magnanimous to all who surrendered to him, but ruthless toward cities like Tyre and Gaza which held out against him to the bitter end. The island city which lay almost a m. offshore from the mainland city of Tyre was finally reached by an artificial causeway and totally destroyed in 332. (The mainland city was later rebuilt in Hel. times and regained much of its former importance.) It should be noted that after his campaign against Gaza Alexander descended into Egypt, where he was welcomed as a deliverer from the hated Pers. yoke, and he was hailed as a son of Zeus Ammon, the chief deity of Egypt. Thus he became eligible to have his portrait on coinage (for only divine beings could be portrayed on Gr. coinage) and to wear the ram’s horn crown of Zeus Ammon. (He is thus represented on a coin minted by King Lysimachus of Thrace after his death in 323. The reverse of this beautiful tetradrachma, shows Athena seated and holding Nike in her right hand, with the inscr.: BASILEŌS LYSIMAKHOU, “of King Lysimachus.”), came to the throne, and proved to be one of the greatest military geniuses the world has ever seen, not only because of his daring and skill on the battlefield but also because of his personal magnetism, which inspired a passionate loyalty on the part of his troops. After putting down a serious rebellion in Greece (which resulted in the total destruction of the city of Thebes), he led an army of less than 40,000 seasoned troops (including over 5,000 cavalry) across the Hellespont and began his amazing conquest of the Pers. empire. In three major battles with the Pers. troops, Granicus in Asia Minor (334
Alexander’s portrait did not, however, appear on the coinage of his empire during his lifetime. His silver pieces, both the tetradrachma and the drachma, bore the familiar Macedonian type of the head of Heracles in his lion’s headdress (Heracles was the mythical ancestor of the Macedonian royal line), and on the reverse the god Zeus enthroned, holding an eagle in his right hand and a tall scepter in his left. Below the eagle is the mint mark, in this case the wreath, which represented Side in Pamphylia. The inscr. reads (to the right) BASILEŌS, and ALEXANDROU below; i.e. “of King Alexander.” His gold coinage was plentiful, for vast treasures of captured Pers. gold were melted down for currency purposes. The stater shows a lovely head of helmeted Athena, facing right, while the reverse displays the goddess of Victory, Nike, standing leftward, her hair bejewelled and put up in a stylish bun. The inscr. is the same: ALEXANDROU BASILEŌS.
After the conqueror’s untimely death in 323, his successors, or Epigonoi, revered his memory on their coinage. Not only Lysimachus of Thrace, as noted above, but also Ptolemy of Egypt (Ptolemy I was known as Lagos, or Sōtēr, “Savior”) in his earlier issues represented Alexander’s head in an elephant headdress, in a portrait less rugged than the more lifelike representation on Lysimachus’ coin, and on the reverse Athena Promachos (“Battle-champion”) advancing to the right with upraised shield, and an eagle at her feet. The inscr. is a simple ALEXANDROU. Later on Ptolemy was emboldened by Alexander’s example to claim divine status, and hence his own portrait appeared on his tetradrachmas during his lifetime. It was such an unflattering likeness that it must have been quite true to life. Yet the founder of this dynasty was so revered by his successors that they often retained his portrait on the coinage of their own reign, as was the case with his son, Ptolemy II Philadelphus (“Sister-lover”). The reverse of this coin was likewise similar to that of the preceding reign: the eagle perched on a thunderbolt, looking fiercely to the left, with the legend: PTOLEMAIOU BASILEŌS (“of Ptolemy the king”). It was under the reign of this king, incidentally, that the LXX of the Heb. Scriptures into Gr. tr. was begun; the Letter of Aristaeus even claims that it was under his royal patronage.
Apart from Pal. (which remained part of the Ptolemaic domain until 198 b.c.), the Asiatic territories of Alexander’s empire E of Asia Minor fell under the sway of Seleucus, who at first was merely satrap of Babylonia (and as such issued thick tetradrachmas with Zeus or Baal enthroned on the obverse, and a lion striding leftward with an anchor symbol above him, on the reverse. Later on, after the effort of Antigonus to control the entire Alexandrian empire was crushed at the Battle of Ipsus in 301, Seleucus consolidated his hold and asserted the title of king in his own right. In honor of his son, Antiochus, he founded the city of Antioch, which became the capital of his empire. After 306 he had begun to issue coins with a portrait of Alexander.
It may be assumed that the inhabitants of Pal. used Ptolemaic Egyp. coinage until their territory was taken over by Antiochus the Great in 198 b.c. His younger son, who began to rule in 175 b.c., was Epiphanes, who made a supreme effort to extinguish the Jewish faith and to compel the Heb. people to become polytheists like the rest of his subjects. In 168 he forced his way into the Temple precinct in Jerusalem and converted it into a temple to Zeus Olympius, whose statue was erected within the . He made it a capital crime to possess a copy of the Scriptures or to permit one’s child to be circumcised. The coin illustrated shows the obverse of his tetradrachma, with a flatteringly handsome portrait of the king; the reverse has Zeus enthroned, holding Nike in his right hand and the staff in his left and the title NIKĒPHOROU (“Victory-winner”) below his throne. To the right are the words: BASILEŌS ANTIOKHOU, and to the left: THEOU EPIPHANOUS—which means: “Of Antiochus the King, the god manifest.” Quite fittingly this man is predicted in
It was the achievement of the Maccabean family to lead the Jews in a successful revolt against the tyranny of the Seleucid government, maintaining their loyalty to the Scriptures, and setting up an independent Jewish state. The Feast of Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Temple to the worship of Jehovah after it had been cleansed of all vestiges of heathen idolatry in December 165. Jonathan Maccabaeus was appointed high priest by one of the rival contenders for the Seleucid throne, and this was confirmed to his successor, Simon Maccabaeus, by vote of the Jewish people soon after the beginning of his reign in 143. But, it does not appear that he minted any coins during his reign even though he was briefly granted permission to do so by b.c.), the son and successor of Simon Maccabaeus, was the first Hasmonean ruler to issue Jewish coinage—indeed the first that the Jews ever minted, as far as is known. These came out only in small bronzes, the lepton (or “mite”) and the dilepton. Another coin shows a typical lepton of his, with a poorly engraved Heb. inscr.: (YH) WḤN/N HGDL/ḤBR H/YḤD, a shortened VS of: “Yehōḥānān hakkōhēn haggādōl weḥeber hayyehūdim” (“John the , and the Community of the Jews”). The other side displays two slender horns of plenty with a poppy in between. The lepta of his younger son, Alexander Jannaeus (104-78), often bear the same double cornucopia type, and some of them carried the same inscr. as the preceding, except that the name Yehō nātān is substituted for Yehoḥanan. Most of his coins carry an anchor on one side and a Gr. inscr.: BASILEŌS ALEXANDROU. The other two show the cornucopia and a flower as alternate types from his reign. His son, John Hyrcanus II (63-40 b.c.), is abundantly represented in the lepta unearthed in Pal. which closely resemble those of his grandfather of the same name. The types and inscrs. are identical, and since their names were the same, it is only possible to distinguish between them by the tendency of the later Hyrcanus to show thinner lines in the lettering of the inscr. and to cramp the letters more closely together.in 139; the coins formerly attributed to his reign have been verified as either First Revolt or Second Revolt as a result of recent archeological discovery. Thus, all coins bearing the Heb. inscr. “SHiMe’ōWN” refer to Simeon bar Koseba (or Barkokhbah) of the Second Revolt. It seems clear, therefore, that John Hyrcanus I (135-105
Since the Hasmonean priest-kings minted only the small bronzes, it followed that the silver and gold currency in circulation in the Judean kingdom had to be imported from surrounding states. For the most part this supply came from Egypt to the S and Phoenicia and Antioch to the N. Until the Rom. conquest in 63 b.c. the tetradrachmas of the Ptolemies and the Seleucid kings must have served for the bulk of the commercial transactions requiring silver currency. No. 32 shows a typical Seleucid example from this later period: a tetradrachma of Philippus Philadelphus (92-83 b.c.) with his mop of curly hair; and on the reverse the traditional type of the seated Zeus holding Nike in his right hand, and: BASILEŌS PHILIPPOU EPIPHANOUS PHILADELPHOU (“of King Philip the Manifest [or Illustrious] Brother-lover”). A series more frequently found in Palestinian excavations is the Tyrian tetradrachma (or shekel) bearing the laureate head of Baal Melqart portrayed as a Grecian Heracles, and on the other side the Seleucid eagle striding fiercely toward the left with a palm of victory and the legend: TYROU (H)IERAS KAI ASY-LOU (“Of Tyre the Holy and a City-of-Refuge”). The treasure jar found by Roland de Vaux at (and dating from about 10 b.c.) was filled with shekels and half-shekels of this mintage. Since this series continued to be struck until the 2nd cent. a.d., it is reasonable to suppose that most of the thirty silver pieces given to for the betrayal of our Lord consisted of these Tyrian tetradrachmas.
Jewish independence came to an end in 63 b.c. when Pompey the Great was asked by Aristobulus II to intervene on his behalf against his older brother, John Hyrcanus II, who had temporarily ousted him from the throne he had wrongfully usurped. Hyrcanus had secured the help of King Aretas of the Nabataean Arab state in this struggle with his brother, and so Scaurus, Pompey’s general, compelled the Nabataeans to submit and also took over custody of Jerusalem. In 63 Pompey annexed the territory to the Rom. empire, although he permitted Hyrcanus to remain on as puppet king. Plate no. 35 shows a Rom. denarius struck by the mint-master Publius Hypsaeus in 58 b.c. in commemoration of this conquest; the coin on the left hand side represents Aretas kneeling beside his camel in an act of surrender to Rome; the inscr. is AED(ile) CUR(ile)—the title of Scaurus’s office at Rome that year—and REX ARETAS below. The other side of this coin shows a quadriga (or four-horse chariot) with the name of the moneyer: P(ublius) HYPSAE(us). Another coin displays a portrait of Pompey himself with a pitcher and augur’s wand (the insignia of Pompey’s office as , or chief priest of the Rom. hierarchy), and his title: MAG(nus) PIUS I(MPerator ITER): (“The Great, Pious Commander for the second time”). The reverse shows the legendary Catanaean brothers carrying their father to safety—an allusion to the loyalty of Pompey’s own sons in carrying on their dead father’s cause against the Caesarian party (i.e. Antony and Octavian) even in 40 b.c., the approximate date of this denarius, minted while Sextus Pompey was temporarily master of Sardinia and Sicily. The Biblical interest of this coin, of course, lies in its portrayal of the man who ushered in the fourth empire of Daniel’s prophecy in
Actually Pompey was the loser in a titanic struggle with Julius Caesar for mastery of the Rom. empire, for after losing the Battle of Pharsalus he had to flee to Egypt in 48 b.c., where he was treacherously murdered. Plate no. 37 shows Julius Caesar in the veiled garb of the pontifex maximus, and his name, CAESAR, DICT(ator)PERPET(uus), “Caesar permanent dictator.” The reverse shows the modestly garbed standing figure of Venus (the legendary ancestress of the Julian gens) and the name of the moneyer: P(ublius) SEPULLIUS MACER. This issue, interestingly enough, was prob. the first ever to bear the portrait of a living Rom.; before that only gods or the illustrious dead could appear on the coinage of Rome.
Although Pal. was a vassal state of the Rom. empire, it was permitted to endure the misrule of the Herodian dynasty for the rest of the 1st cent. b.c. Antipater the Idumean had proved a valuable helper to Caesar and Antony, and his clever son, Herod, managed to pick the victorious side when Antony and Octavian (later Augustus) clashed at the naval battle of Actium in 31 b.c. He was rewarded with the rule of all Pal., and showed his loyalty to by building up the port of Strato’s Tower on the coast below Carmel and renaming it Caesarea, and also by erecting temples to Augustus both there and in Samaria. Herod’s lepta featured the traditional types of the double cornucopia and the anchor (suggesting that the king was an anchor to the ship of state), with the Gr. inscr.: BA(sileōs) HĒRŌ(dou). In order to legitimize his dynasty, he married Mariamne, a descendant of the Hasmonean line; but he later had her murdered, for he was as ruthless toward his own family as he was to the innocent babes of Bethlehem after the birth of Jesus.
His oldest son and successor was Herod Archelaus, who ruled as Ethnarch of Judea from 4 b.c. to a.d. 6, and was afterward deposed by the Romans on account of his oppressive and unpopular rule. The reverse of his lepton shows a double crested helmet. After his removal from power Judea became a province ruled by a succession of Rom. procurators, who made Caesarea rather than Jerusalem their administrative capital. This condition of affairs was interrupted only during a.d. 41-44, during the brief reign of Herod Agrippa I (a grandson of Herod the Great) as king of all Pal. In Galilee and Perea another son of Herod the Great, Herod Antipas (“the Tetrarch”) held sway from 4 b.c. to a.d. 39. It was he who had executed in accordance with the wishes of his wife Herodias (who was also his niece and his sister-in-law).
Now turning our attention to the Rom. emperors themselves, we note that it was Caesar Augustus whose census decree (
The Lord carried on His adult ministry in the reign of Tiberius, the adopted son of Augustus (a.d. 14-37). It was in his fifteenth year that John the Baptist began his prophetic career near the banks of the Jordan (
During the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius the need for small change was supplied by the local provincial mint in Judea operated under the authority of the various procurators. Typical of these was the lepton (Plate no. 48) from the governorship of Valerius Gratus (a.d. 15-26), showing a vertical palm branch with the name of Julia (the wife of Tiberius) in Gr. letters: IOU-LAIA, and the date L-AI (i.e. “year 11” or a.d. 24). In the governorship of for the first time a pagan symbol was used on a Judean lepton (Plate No. 49), the lituus or wand of the augur, with the legend TIBERIOU KAISAROS (Gr. for “Tiberius Caesar”). The reverse of this coin gives the year as “17,” which would come out to a.d. 30, the probable year of Christ’s crucifixion. Another coin (Plate no. 49), shows a second type issued by Pilate, three wheat ears bound in a cluster; its reverse has a simpulum or ladle used in pouring liquids on a burning sacrifice—another Rom. or non-Jewish symbol. These coins illustrate Pilate’s usual lack of concern for the feelings of his Jewish subjects.
After the death of Tiberius in a.d. 37 he was succeeded by the young great-grandson of Augustus, Gaius Caligula (a.d. 37-41), who in his short reign became a monster of infamy and sadistic cruelty. Herod Agrippa I was his boon companion, and used his influence to have Pontius Pilate removed from office and recalled to Rome in a.d. 37. The denarius of Caligula (Plate no. 50) shows his portrait with his titles: G(aius) CAESAR AUG(ustus) GERM(anicus) P(ontifex) M(aximus) TR(ibunicia) POT(estate). The reverse carries the portrait of the deified Augustus with accompanying stars, signifying his elevation to the heavenlies (by the authority of the Rom. senate).
After the removal of Pilate, Herod Agrippa was given increasing authority until he was appointed king over the entire region of Pal. from 41 until his untimely death in 44. It was he who martyred the Apostle James, son of Zebedee (
After Caligula’s assassination in a.d. 41, his uncle Claudius was chosen as emperor by the Prateorian Guard, and he reigned for thirteen years until he was poisoned by his wife, Agrippina the Younger. During his reign the Apostle Paul began his missionary career and later met with Aquila aand Priscilla after they had been temporarily expelled from Rome (
The city of Antioch, from which Paul was commissioned as a missionary, was permitted by Rome to mint both bronze and silver. Plate numbers 56 and 57 show a sample of each, bearing the portrait of Claudius, and a silver tetradrachma with the imperial eagle. The other side of the bronze shows a large SC (for senatūs consultō, “by order of the Senate”) within a wreath. On Paul’s first journey he preached in Cyprus and ended up in Paphos on the W coast of the island. Another coin (Plate no. 58) shows a tetradrachma of Paphos with the head of Vespasian and his titles in Gr.: AUTOKRATŌR OUESPASIANOS KAIS(ar), “Emperor Vespasian Caesar.” The reverse depicts the façade of the temple of Aphrodite with a conical, archaic statue in front, and a small altar. It was at Paphos that Paul had his dramatic encounter with the Jewish sorcerer, Bar-Jesus, in the presence of the Rom. governor,
Back in Rome the Emperor Claudius came to an abrupt end when his wife served him a dish of poisonous mushrooms (according to popular rumor, at least) and thus left the way free for her degenerate son Nero to assume the throne (a kindness which he later repaid by having her drowned in a spurious “accident”). A coin (Plate No. 60) shows Nero’s portrait and titles: NERO CAESAR AUG(ustus) P(ater) P(atriae); the reverse shows Salus (Health) seated. It was to this emperor that Paul appealed his case from the tribunal of Festus at Caesarea (
During Nero’s reign Paul had carried on his lengthy ministry at Ephesus, where the great temple of Artemis was the chief tourist attraction. It is interesting to observe that the coins of this city alluded to this cult by featuring symbols associated with Artemis. Plate no. 62 shows a drachma from the 2nd cent. b.c. with a honey-bee and EPH (for “Ephesians”) on its obverse, and on the other side a stag standing in front of a palm tree, with the name of the city magistrate for that year.
Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem took place around a.d. 58 and he was transferred to Caesarea for safekeeping under the protection of , who kept him in prison until the end of his governorship in 60. His successor was , who held office from 60 to 62, and who likewise held hearings on Paul’s case. Two lepta appeared (Plate number 64), one of Felix and the other of Festus. The Felix coin features two crossed shields and the emperor’s name, NERŌN, in Gr. The other coin has a palm branch and L-E KAISAROS (“year five of Caesar”) a date equivalent to 59/60, when Festus first assumed office.
The Rom. governors who succeeded Festus in Judea were greedy opportunists, until finally Gessius Florus goaded the Jews into a full scale rebellion in a.d. 66, a year which they designated as “Year One of the Liberation of Zion.” For the first three years they succeeded in defeating the Rom. legions sent against them until finally General Vespasian began a systematic reduction of the walled cities of Galilee and Judea and closed in on Jerusalem. During these four years of precarious independence the Jewish patriots issued an entirely new series of coins both in bronze and in silver. Plate no. 65 shows two typical lepta (or prūtōt) dating from a.d. 67/68, one showing the usual obverse: a libation cup used at sacrifices, with the Heb. inscr.: (Sh-N-T) Sh-T-Y-M (i.e. shenat shtayim, “year two”). The other is the reverse, bearing a vine leaf (an allusion to Israel as the vineyard of the Lord,
In late a.d. 68 Vespasian was compelled to leave the campaign in Judea in order to make good his claim to the imperial throne. Rome had suffered through a succession of three emperors in that year: Galba, whose march on Rome caused Nero to commit suicide; Otho, who toppled Galba; and then a third general, Vitellius, who was destroyed by mob action as Vespasian’s legions neared the city. Yet Vespasian’s older son, Titus, stayed on to besiege and finally to capture Jerusalem in a.d. 70, after its defenders had nearly destroyed one another in internecine conflicts. The city was reduced to a smoking rubble except for two or three guard towers, and remained almost uninhabited until the reign of Hadrian. In celebration of this victory over the rebellious Jews Vespasian (who reigned until 79) struck a series of coins both in bronze and silver.
After Titus’s brief reign (79-81) his younger brother, Domitian, took the throne, and ruled until 96 with increasing severity in his policy toward the Christians. While he did not follow Nero’s example in using pitch-covered Christians tied to stakes as torches to illumine his garden, he nevertheless executed even members of his own family (such as Domitilla) who were suspected of embracing this faith. His most noteworthy victim was the Apostle John, who as a very old man was banished to the island of Patmos (where he wrote the a.d. 92; hence there is an exact date for this coin.)). A denarius of Domitian is shown (Plate no. 69) with the legend: IMP(erator) CAES(ar) DOMIT(ianus) AUG(ustus) GERM(anicus) P(ontifex) M(aximus) TR(ibunicia) P(otestate) XII. (His twelfth term with tribunician authority was
In the reign of Hadrian (117-138) a final attempt was made by the Jewish people to establish their independence from Rome. It was stirred up by the declared intention of Hadrian to rebuild the desolate city of Jerusalem as a pagan center with a temple to Venus, and to rename it Aelia Capitolina. This resulted in the second revolt, which raged from 133 to 135 under the leadership of Simon Bar Coseba, who was acclaimed by the celebrated Rabbi Aqiba as the Messiah, and given the title Bar-Kokhbah (“Son of the Star”) or Barcochebas. A typical bronze from this period, minted by the Jewish patriots (Plate no. 70), bears on the obverse a large vine leaf with the inscr. shīn bēth (i.e. “year two” or a.d. 134) L-Ḥ-R-T Y-S-R-'-L leḥērūt Yiśrā'ēl, or “of the liberation of Israel”). The reverse has a date palm and some letters of the name Shime’ōn, or Simon, the first name of Barcochebas. Other coins were issued in silver, both in shekel and half-shekel size, mostly overstruck on tetradrachmas from Antioch or Alexandria or else on denarii from Rome. Their shortage of bullion restricted their source of supply to the Gr. and Rom. coinage they happened to have on hand at the time the rebellion broke out. For reasons of patriotic sentiment they were heated and restruck as Jewish coins for circulation in the State of Israel. The quarter shekel bore a grape cluster on the obverse (with Sh-M-'-W-N), and two straight trumpets on the reverse (with L-Ḥ-R-W-T Y-R-W-Sh-L-M). There was a slightly larger silver coin which may possibly have rated as a half shekel and which showed a three-stringed lyre with the same legend as the one last mentioned (meaning: “Of the liberation of Jerusalem”), and on the other side Sh-M-'-W-N (“Simeon”) within a wreath of pomegranates. The full shekel had a fourcolumned temple façade with a stylized Ark of the covenant inside between the two central pillars; and the inscr.: Sh-M-'-W-N. The reverse displayed a large lulab (that is, a bundle of twigs and citron) used in celebrating the or Succoth, and the “Of the liberation of Jerusalem” inscr. Thus it came about that in their final struggle for independence from Rome the Jewish people reached their highest productivity and variety in all their numismatic history. It is significant that virtually all of these types were finally adopted for the coinage of modern Israel in 1949.
Additional Material moved from the Money Article
After the exile we begin to find references to coined money. It was invented in Lydia or perhaps in Aegina. Herodotus assigns the invention to the Lydians (i.94). The earliest Lydian coins were struck by Gyges in the 7th century BC. These coins were of electrum and elliptical in form, smooth on the reverse but deeply stamped with incuse impressions on the obverse. They were called staters, but were of two standards; one for commercial use with the Babylonians, weighing about 164,4 grains, and the other of 224 grainssee Madden, op. cit.. Later, gold was coined, and, by the time of Croesus, gold and silver. The Persians adopted the Lydian type, and coined both gold and silver darics, the name being derived from Darius Hystaspis (521-485 BC) who is reputed to have introduced the system into his empire. But the staters of Lydia were current there under CyrusMadden, op. cit., and it was perhaps with these that the Jews first became acquainted in Babylon. Ezra states (2:69) that "they (the Jews) gave after their ability into the treasury of the work threescore and one thousand darics (the Revised Version (British and American)) of gold, and five thousand pounds of silver." The term here rendered "daric" is darkemonim, and this word is used in three passages in Ne (7:70-72), and ’adharkonim occurs in
Besides the gold daric there was a silver coin circulating in Persia that must have been known to the Jews. This was the siglos, supposed to be referred to in
The issues of Aradus, Sidon and Tyre were especially noteworthy, and were of various types and sizes suited to the commercial transactions of the Phoenicians. The Tyrian traders were established in Jerusalem as early as the time of Nehemiah (
When Alexander overthrew the Persian empire in 331 BC, a new coinage, on the Attic standard, was introduced, and the silver drachms and tetradrachms struck by him circulated in large numbers, as is attested by the large number of examples still in existence. After his death, these coins, the tetradrachms especially, continued to be struck in the provinces, with his name and type, in his honor. We have examples of these struck at Aradus, Tyre, Sidon, Damascus and Acre, bearing the mint marks of these towns. They bear on the obverse the head of Alexander as Hercules, and, on the reverse, Zeus seated on his throne holding an eagle in the extended right hand and a scepter in the left. The legend is BASILEOS ALEXANDROU, or ALEXANDROU, only, with various symbols of the towns or districts where they were struck, together with mint marks.
The successors of Alexander established kingdoms with a coinage of their own, such as the Ptolemies in Egypt and the Seleucids in Syria, and these coins, as well as those of Alexander, circulated among the Jews. The Ptolemies of Egypt controlled Palestine for about a century after Alexander, and struck coins, not only in Egypt, but in some of the Phoenician towns, especially at Acre, which was, from that time, known as Ptolemais. Their coins were based upon the Phoenician standard. But the Seleucid kings of Syria had the most influence in Phoenicia and Palestine, and their monetary issues are very various and widely distributed, bearing the names and types of the kings, and the symbols and mint marks of the different towns where they were struck, and are on the Alexandrine or Attic standard in contrast to those of the Ptolemies. They are both silver and bronze, gold being struck in the capital, Antioch, usually. The coins of, Epiphanes, are especially interesting on account of his connection with Jewish affairs. It was he who made the futile attempt to hellenize the Jews, which led to the revolt that resulted, under his successors, in the independence of the country of Syrian control, and the institution of a native coinage in the time of the Maccabees.
The struggle caused by the persecution of Antiochus commenced in 165 BC and continued more than 20 years. Judas, the son of Mattathias, defeated Antiochus, who died in 164, but the war was continued by his successors until dynastic dissensions among them led to treaties with the Jews to gain their support. At last Simon, who espoused the cause of Demetrius II, obtained from him, as a reward, the right to rule Judea under the title of high priest, with practical independence, 142-143 BC. Later, his successor, confirmed Simon in his position and added some privileges, and among them the right to coin money (138-139 BC). Both silver and bronze coins exist ascribed to Simon, but some numismatists have recently doubted this, and have assigned them to another Simon in the time of the first revolt of the Jews under the Romans. The coins in question are the shekels and half-shekels with the legends, in Hebrew, sheqel yisra’el and yerushalem qedhoshah ("Jerusalem the holy"), bearing dates ranging from the 1st to the 5th year, as well as bronze pieces of the 4th.
The reason for denying the ascription of these coins to Simon the Maccabee is the difficulty in finding room for the years indicated in his reign which closed in 135 BC. He received the commission to coin in 139-138, which would allow only 4 years for his coinage, whereas we have coins of the 5th year. Moreover, no shekels and half-shekels of any of the Maccabees later than Simon have come to light, which is, at least, singular since we should have supposed that all would have coined them as long as they remained independent, especially since they coined in bronze, examples of the latter being quite abundant. The fact also that they bore the title of king, while Simon was high priest only, would seem to have furnished an additional reason for claiming the prerogative of coinage in silver as well as bronze. But this argument is negative only, and such coins may have existed but have not come to light, and there are reasons which seem to the present writer sufficient to assign them to Simon the Maccabee.
In the first place, the chronological difficulty is removed if we consider that Simon was practically independent for three or four years before he obtained the explicit commission to coin money. We learn from Josephus Ant., XIII, vi, 7 and from 1 Macc (13:41,42) that in the 170th year of the Seleucid era, that is, 143-142 BC, the Jews began to use the era of Simon in their contracts and public records. Now it would not have been strange if Simon, seeing the anarchy that prevailed in the kingdom of Syria, should have assumed some prerogatives of an independent ruler before they were distinctly granted to him, and among them that of coining money. If he had commenced in the latter part of 139 BC, he would have been able to strike coins of the 5th year before he died, and this would satisfy the conditions see Madden’s Jewish Coinage.
There is a difficulty quite as great in attributing these coins to Simon of the first revolt under the Romans. That broke out in 66 AD, and was suppressed by the taking of Jerusalem in 70. This would allow a date of the 5th year, but it is hardly supposable that in the terrible distress and anarchy that prevailed in the city during that last year any silver coins would have been struck. There is another fact bearing upon this question which is worthy of notice. The coins of the first revolt bear personal appellations, such as "Eleazar the priest," and "Simon," while those assigned to Simon the Maccabee bear no personal designation whatever. This is significant, for it is not likely that Eleazar and Simon would have commenced coining silver shekels and half-shekels with their names inscribed upon them in the 1st year of their reign and then have omitted them on later issues. Another point which has some force is this: We find mention, in the
The shekels under discussion have on one side a cup, or chalice (supposed to represent the pot of manna), with the legend in Hebrew around the margin, sheqel yisra’el, with a letter above the cup indicating the year of the reign. The reverse bears the sprig of a plant (conjectured to be Aaron’s rod) having three buds or fruits, and on the margin the legend, yerushalem ha-qedhoshah, "Jerusalem the holy." The half-shekel has the same type, but the reverse bears the inscription, chatsi sheqel (half-shekel). The letters indicating the year have the letter called "shin" (Shenath, "year") prefixed, except for the first. This also omits the Hebrew letter "waw" (w) from qedhoshah and the second letter, "yodh" (y) from yerushalem. The term "holy" for Jerusalem is found in
Copper, or bronze, half-and quarter-shekels are also attributed to Simon, bearing date of the 4th year. The obverse of the half-shekel has two bundles of thick-leaved branches with a citron between, and on the reverse a palm tree with two baskets filled with fruit. The legend on the obverse is shenath ’arba` chatsi, "the fourth year a half," and on the reverse, li-ghe’ullath tsiyon, "the redemption of Zion." The quarter-shekel has a similar type, except that the obverse lacks the baskets and the reverse has the citron only. The legend has rebhia`, "quarter," instead of "half." Another type is a cup with a margin of jewels on the obverse and a single bunch of branches with two citrons on the reverse.
The palm is a very common type on the coins of Judea and a very appropriate one, since it is grown there. Jericho was called the city of palms. The branches of trees in bundles illustrate the custom of carrying branches at the and the erection of booths made of branches for use during this feast (see
When the Romans took possession of Palestine in 63 BC, the independent rule of the Hasmoneans came to an end, but Pompey confirmed John Hyrcanus as governor of Judea under the title of high priest. Dissensions between him and other members of his family called for interference several times on the part of the Romans. Hyrcanus was again confirmed by Julius Caesar in 47 and continued in authority until 40. It is uncertain what coins he issued, but whatever they were, they bore the type found on those of Alexander Janneus. In 40 BC, the Parthians temporarily overthrew the Roman authority in Syria and Palestine, and set Antigonus on the throne of the latter, and he reigned until 37. The coins he issued bore bilingual inscriptions like the bilinguals of Alexander. He calls himself Antigonus in Greek, and Mattathias in Hebrew, the type being a wreath on the obverse and a double cornucopia on the reverse, though some have it single. They are much heavier coins than the preceding issues. The legends are: obverse, BASILEOS ANew TestamentIGONOU, "of King Antigonus"; reverse (mattithyah ha-kohen gadhol ha-yeh(udhim), "Mattathias the high priest of the Jews."
The Hasmonean dynasty ended with Antigonus and that of the Herods followed. Herod the Great was the first to attain the title of king, and his coins are numerous and bear only Greek legends and are all of bronze. The earliest have the type of a helmet with cheek pieces on the obverse and the legend: BASILEOS HRODOU, and in the field to the left gamma (year 3), and on the right, a monogram. The reverse has a Macedonian shield with rays. The coin here illustrated is another type: a rude tripod on the obverse, and a cross within a wreath on the reverse, the legend being the same as given above.
Herod Archelaus, who reigned from 4 BC to 6 AD, issued coins with the title of ethnarch, the only coins of Palestine to bear this title. They are all of small size and some of them have the type of a galley, indicating his sovereignty over some of the coast cities, such as Caesarea and Joppa.
The coins of Herod Antipas (4 BC-40 AD) bear the title of tetrarch, many of them being struck at Tiberias, which he founded on theand named after the emperor Tiberius. The following is an example: obverse HER. TETR. (HERODOU TETRACHOU), with the type of a palm branch; reverse, TIBERIAS, within a wreath. Others have a palm tree entire with the date lambda-gamma (LG) and lambda-delta (LD): 33 and 34 of his reign, 29-30 AD. There are coins of Herod Philip, 4 BC-34 AD, though somewhat rare, but those of Agrippa, 37-44 AD, are numerous, considering the shortness of his reign. The most common type is a small coin ("mite") with an umbrella having a tassel-like border, on the obverse, and three ears of wheat on one stalk on the reverse. The legend reads: Basileos Agrippa, and the date is LS (year 6). Larger coins of Agrippa bear the head of the emperor (Caligula or Claudius) with the title of Sebastos (Augustus) in Greek.
Agrippa II was the last of the Herodian line to strike coins (48-100 AD). They were issued under Nero, whose head they sometimes bear with his name as well as that of Agrippa. They are all of the denomination of the mite (lepton).
In 6 AD, Judea was made a Ro province and was governed by procurators, and their coins are numerous, being issued during the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius and Nero. They are all small and bear on the obverse the legends: KAISAROS (Caesar), or IOULIA (Julia), or the emperor’s name joined with Caesar. The coins of the Jews struck during the first and second revolts, 66-70 AD, and 132-135 AD, have already been alluded to with the difficulty of distinguishing them, and some have been described. They all have the types common to the purely Jewish issues; the date palm, the vine, bunches of fruit, the laurel or olive wreath, the cup or chalice, the lyre and a temple with columns. Types of animals or men they regarded as forbidden by their law. Most of them are bronze, but some are silver shekels and half-shekels, dated in the lat, 2nd and 3rd years, if we assign those of higher date to Simon the Maccabee. Those of the 1st year bear the name of Eleazar the priest, on the obverse, and on the reverse the date "first year of the redemption of Israel," shenath ’achath li-ghe’ullath yisra’el. Others bear the name of Simon and some that of "Simon Nesi’ Israel" ("Simon Prince of Israel"). The coins of the 2nd and 3rd years are rare. They have the type of the cup and vine leaf, or temple and lulabh. Those supposed to belong to the second revolt bear the name of Simon without Nesi’ Israel, and are therefore assigned to Simon Bar-Cochba. The example here given has the type of the temple on the obverse with what is thought to be a representation of the "beautiful gate," between the columns, and a star above. The name Simon is on the margin, the first two letters on the right of the temple and the others on the left. The legend of the reverse is: lecheruth yerushalem ("the deliverance of Jerusalem").
Some of the coins struck by the Romans to commemorate their victory over the Jews were struck in Palestine and some at Rome, and all bear the head of the Roman emperor on the obverse, but the reverse often exhibits Judea as a weeping captive woman, seated at the foot of a palm tree or of a Roman standard bearing a trophy. The legend is sometimes Judea capta and sometimes Judea devicta. The example given has the inscription in Greek: IOUDIAS EALOKUIAS, Judea capta.
There are coins of Agrippa II (the "king Agrippa" of
After the revolt of Bar-Cochba and the final subjugation of the Jews by Hadrian, Jerusalem was made a Roman colony and the name was changed to Aelia Capitolina. A series of coins was struck, having this title, which continued until the reign of Valerianus, 253-260 AD. These coins were all of copper or bronze, but silver pieces were in circulation, struck at Rome or at some of the more favored towns in Syria, such as Antioch. These were denarii and tetradrachms, the former being about one-fourth the weight of the latter which were known as staters (